MULTAN, Oct 7: At least 39 people were killed and over 70 injured when a powerful car bomb exploded near a place where a gathering was held to commemorate the first death anniversary of Maulana Azam Tariq in the early hours of Thursday.
Some news reports put the death toll at 41 and the number of injured at over 100.
About 2,000 people had gathered for the meeting organized by the Ahl-i-Sunnat-Wal Jamaat on the Khanewal Road in a ground adjacent to Jamia Masjid Rasheedia in Rasheedabad Colony.
Top leaders of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, including Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, Ali Sher Haideri and Khadim Dhiloon, were present as the key speakers.
The meeting which had begun at about 10.30pm on Wednesday, after Isha prayers, continued till 4.15am on Thursday morning. People were leaving the venue when the massive explosion took place just a furlong away from the mosque.
Eyewitnesses said there was panic all around with the place littered with human limbs and the ground splattered with blood. The explosion also blew up a nearby electricity transformer, cutting off power supply to the area.
As many as 20 people died on the spot while 10 succumbed to their wounds on way to the Nishtar Hospital. Nine people died in the hospital. The district administration declared emergency and requested the military to stand by to avert any untoward incident.
The explosion was so powerful that parts of the car in which the bomb had been planted were scattered over a large area in the thickly-populated colony. The front portion of the house where the car had been parked was badly damaged.
The blast created a crater of about one-and-a-half foot was created at the blast site. Shutters of several closed shops fell apart as a result of the explosion. As the day broke, people from various parts of the city started gathering at the place.
Some of them pelted passing vehicles with stones and chanted slogans against the government, accusing it of failing to protect peoples' lives. They also burnt tyres at the Rasheedabad Chowk.
Activists of the SSP and relatives of the victims assembled at the Nishtar Hospital where some of them pelted vehicles with stones and damaged two ambulances of the Edhi Foundation. However, SSP leaders moved swiftly to calm the angry activists asked them to remain peaceful.
Funeral prayers for 33 victims were offered at the football ground of the Nishtar Medical College in the afternoon, while bodies of two victims were taken away by their heirs. Four of the victims could not be identified till the filing of this report.
The names of the victims identified are as follows: Abdur Rehman s/o Mohammad Ramzan (Multan), Imtiaz Munawwar s/o Ali Mohammad (Qasimpur Colony, Multan), Hammad s/o Mohib Ahmad (Fertilizer Factory, Multan), Mohammad Azam s/o Mohammad Bakhsh (Multan), Riaz Hussain s/o Imam Bakhsh (Alipur), his son Husnain, Abdul Ghaffar s/o Dost Mohammad (Taunsa), Abdul Jabbar s/o Khan Mohammad (Taunsa), Qadir Bakhsh s/o Allah Bakhsh (Taunsa), Khalid Dad s/o Haji (Taunsa), Allah Bakhsh s/o Yaqoob (Taunsa), Hafiz Abdul Khaliq s/o Ghulam Farid (Taunsa), Hafiz Tahir s/o Hafiz M. Esa (Kabirwala), Mohammad Tahir s/o Manzoor Hussain (Kabirwala), Qari Mohammad Hanif s/o Allah Ditta (Kabirwala), Javed s/o Wali Mohammad (Kabirwala), Abdul Basit s/o Nazar Mohammad (Kabirwala), Ijaz Ahmad s/o Irshad Ahmad (Kabirwala), Umar Farooq s/o Abdul Latif (Jalalpur Pirwala), his brother Abdul Maalik, Mohammad Nawaz s/o Willayat Ali (Haroonabad), Qari Hafeezur Rehman s/o Hafiz Allah Bakhsh (Khanewal), Mohammad Ikram s/o Mohammad Sultan (Khanewal), Saudullah s/o Abdul Latif (Muzaffargarh), Atiqur Rehman s/o Nazar Hussain (Muzaffargarh), Mohammad Moazzam s/o Abdul Qadir (Muzaffargarh), Mahmood Ahmad s/o Bashir Ahmad (Fazilpur), Abdul Malik s/o Mohammad Bakhsh (Mailsi), Taj Mohammad s/o Khuda Bakhsh (Lodhran), Ashiq s/o Ghulam Mohammad (Kabirwala), Saifullah s/o Ghulam Hussain (Kotaddu), Qari M. Saeed s/o Mohammad Jafar (Kabirwala), Gulzar Ahmad s/o Abdul Ghaffar (Lodhran), Allah Rakha s/o Ghulam Farid (Shujabad) Ibrahim and Qari Zafar (Bohar Gate, Multan).
The injured included an ASI and two constables. Doctors said the condition of 10 injured was critical. A small army contingent was seen patrolling for some time around the troubled spots of Rasheedabad and Nishtar Hospital. District Nazim Riaz Hussain Qureshi and DCO Ijaz Chaudhry were seen requesting the mob outside the hospital to stay peaceful.
Most of the business centres in the city remained closed throughout the day, while the district administration ordered closure of educational institutions for two days.
Talking to journalists, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi said that the Multan incident might be the reaction to the last week's blast at a Sialkot imambargah that claimed 31 lives. Meanwhile, provincial minister Rana Qasim Noon announced on behalf of the Punjab chief minister Rs500,000 compensation for each of the dead person and Rs50,000 for each injured.
HIGH-INTENSITY BOMB: "It was a high intensity (car) bomb which carried seven to eight kilograms of explosives," city police chief Sikandar Hayat told AFP. It was set off by remote control or a timer. Police have detained several people for questioning, Mr Hayat said.
Speaking to mourners, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi gave a seven-day deadline to the government to arrest the 'culprits'. "We will ourselves trace out the culprits and deal with them sternly if the government fails to arrest them by next Friday," he said.
One of the wounded, Qari Hafeez, told Reuters that a car had been driven into the crowd. "When we came out of the rally at around 4:30 in the morning, a car came at us with its lights on. It hit the people and exploded. After that, I don't know what happened."